Heritage to sell Joe Carr archive of historic football memorabilia
A historic archive of memorabilia relating to Joe Carr, "The Father of Professional Football", will be sold at Heritage Auctions this week, having been discarded in an Ohio dumpster.
The family scrapbook was recovered from the trash in Columbus, Ohio, by an anonymous 'junk picker', and offers a treasure trove of material from the early days of professional football.
"Whoever preserved these documents did so for nearly a century – unfortunately, we have no clue why or how they ended up in a dumpster," said Chris Ivy, Director of Sports Collectibles at Heritage Auctions. "Thankfully they were found and an important part of the NFL was preserved for posterity."
Carr began his career as a machinist with the Pennsylvania Railroad, and a sports writer for the Ohio State Journal. Having organized the Columbus Panhandles football team, featuring players from the machine shop in which he worked, he established them as one of the country's leading travelling football teams, and in 1920 they featured in the inaugural season of the American Football League.
Carr was then elected as the organization's president the following year, and served until his passing in 1939. He helped build the AFL from its origins in small cities across the U.S, struggling for popularity against college football, to one of the country's biggest sports, with major teams including the New York Giants, Pittsburgh Steelers, Philadelphia Eagles, Detroit Lions and Washington Redskins.
In addition to his vital role with football, Carr was also one of the founders and president of the American Basketball League, and the promotional director for Minor League Baseball, overseeing an expansion from 12 to 40 leagues across the U.S – making him one of the most important figures in U.S sporting history.
Highlights from the archive include "arguably the most significant signed football photograph that exists" – signed to Carr by Tim Mara, founder of the New York Giants. As the first example of its kind ever offered at auction, the photograph, which links two of early football's most important figures, is estimated at $20,000+.
Rare documents signed by Carr himself include his 1936 season pass to the Cincinnati Reds (est. $10,000+); his 1922-23 signed Columbus Elks Club Pass (est. $10,000+); and his 1930's signed Roosevelt Raceway Pass (est. $10,000+).
"The Joe Carr Find" of rare documents, photographs and ephemera will be offered as part of Heritage Auctions' Sports Collectibles Platinum Auction in Dallas on August 27-28.
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